Will you vote for Sarath Fonseka as president of Sri Lanka?

I must admit I was wrong. I assumed that Sarath Fonseka would not risk his reputation by running for president. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that he would side with an opposition that nearly handed half of Sri Lanka's land mass and a third of it's coast to a terrorist group.

The current government maintains that the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Tamil Tigers and the government in power at the time, the United National Party (UNP), posed a threat to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. This is also the same view shared by most supporters of General Sarath Fonseka and the Sri Lankan Military.

A communiqué issued by the LTTE in connection with the 5th anniversary of the signing of the agreement clearly states the benefits it has received due to the signing of the pact. The LTTE has stated that all factors needed to create a Tamil Eelam state were established through the agreement. The Minister pointed out that these factors include the presence of an exact population, operations of the army and the police, the ability to engage in transaction with other governments and the demarcation of boundaries. Minister Yapa also disclosed on the manner of providing radio channels to the LTTE following the signing of the agreement. The then Sri Lankan government imported ultra technological electrical equipment valued over 100 thousand US dollars and handed them over to the LTTE peace secretariat. Minister Yapa added this fact is mentioned in a book compiled by none other than Austin Fernando, who functioned as defence secretary during the UNP government.

Fonseka too shared similar views of the leader of the opposition and the UNP. However, convinced that he had been dealt with in an unjust manner by the Rajapaksa brothers, Fonseka has decided to resign from his post as chief of defence staff (CDS) and run for president. Although he is yet to admit it, there isn't a Sri Lankan on this island who feels Fonseka won't run for president.

In his letter of resignation Fonseka points out that it was Rajapaksa's paranoia about a military coup which compelled him to sideline the popular commander of the armed forces.

Considered a war hero at home for his role in the army's victory, Fonseka said the government had asked neighbouring India on October 15 to prepare its troops to be deployed in the event of a military coup here.

"This action did tarnish the image and reputation gained by the Sri Lanka army as a competent and professional organisation which was capable of defeating a terrorist group," he said in his letter, written in English.

The Hindustan Times reports that the Indian Military was put on "high alert" on October 15, 2009, amid fears from Colombo of a coup.

Hindustan Times,
The Indian armed forces were put on high alert in the middle of October after a worried Colombo fearing a coup by the Sri Lankan army contacted New Delhi and requested the Indian government to prevent a military takeover.

On the night of October 15, top Lankan politicians and bureaucrats got in touch with New Delhi through the Indian High Commission in Colombo and conveyed their apprehensions and request for help.

With mass paranoia setting in, the Rajapaksa government went into great lengths to divert the media spotlight away from Sarath Fonseka. The General’s valedictory speech received no media coverage. A largely under reported event in state run media was a comment Fonseka had made in that speech regarding the displaced Tamil citizens held in camps.

In his speech, on the 12th of October 2009, Fonseka said,"the victory gained by defeating the terrorists could be converted into a real victory if the people are able to carry on with their normal life. You should be dedicated to provide the best service to the re-settlement process in the areas that have been liberated."

Some say these comments were made at a time when Fonseka was already in discussion with UNP contacts to run for election. In July of 2009, Fonseka was summoned for a meeting where he was told that in just three days he would have to relinquish his position as Commander of the Army.

Sunday Times,
An aide came to Gen. Fonseka carrying a mobile phone. It was President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, wanting to speak to the Commander. He was requesting him to come over for a meeting.

Participants at the conference heard Gen. Fonseka ask Weeratunga whether the meeting could take place the next day, Sunday, if it was not very urgent. They later heard him say he would come over as soon as the ongoing conference was over. Participants saw and heard him receive a second call from Weeratunga. He hurriedly concluded the conference, which had lasted some 13 hours and headed for the meeting with Weeratunga. It was here that Gen. Fonseka was told he would have to relinquish office as Commander of the Army in just three days - on July 14. He was being appointed as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). As reported earlier, this meant there was no time to say his farewells to troops in major garrisons, particularly in the newly cleared areas of Wanni.

"Various agencies misleading your excellency by stating a possible coup immediately after the victory over the LTTE obviously led to a change of command in spite of my request to be in command until the army celebrated its 60th anniversary," Fonseka said in his resignation letter.

His choice to run for president of Sri Lanka appears to be driven by emotion. Is Fonseka out to topple the Rajapaksa government over the lack of appreciation they showed him, after the defeat of the LTTE? Fonseka's letter of resignation too resembles more of a pledge by a presidential candidate than a statement by a retiring war hero.

Meanwhile, The Hindu reports that Rajapaksa has already accepted Fonseka's resignation. Many, including myself, thought that Rajapaksa would have the last laugh and not accept his resignation. Which would have forced Fonseka to serve his 2 year term as CDS, ruling him out of any election in 2010.

Personally, I am not in favour of the former Army commander running for president. The motivation behind the move is not promising for Sri Lanka.

Sarath Fonseka's show of compassion, highlighted in his resignation letter, where he claims the displaced should have been released sooner, discredits the armed forces to a degree. As a third world nation picking up the pieces after 26 years of war, Sri Lanka was stretched.

The men and women of the armed forces worked over time to screen for combatants among 300,000 displaced. Despite months of gruelling service at war, the military was pushed to clear the former conflict zone of hidden enemy weapons dumps. Had the resettlement been rushed, it would most certainly have compromised ongoing investigations to weed out Tamil Tiger combatants.

Since the fall of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009 there have been no bombings or terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. That stands as testimony to the success of the current strategy. Sri Lanka always maintained it needed a minimum of 6 months to resettle the displaced. Sri Lanka was clear that the displaced had to be confined till Tiger combatants hiding among them were weeded out. The safety of 21 million Sri Lankans rested in the hands of the current government, not at the hands of Fonseka or the opposition.

I am not a blind follower of the Rajapaksa government. Whilst a stronger opposition is good for democracy, I just don't see genuine intent in Fonseka's motives, or the motives of the UNF/UNP to help the people of Sri Lanka. It's looking a lot like power hungry selfish individuals trying to get to the top.

I would rather have the current power hungry politician at the top. Only because of his administration's proven commitment to ensuring Sri Lanka will never again be at war. The cost of war is dire to all ethnic groups. That's one thing we can never allow on our shores again. That's why I don't want Ranil Wickremasinghe using Fonseka as a puppet to bungle this whole thing up.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,